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my horse is afraid of cattle?

by cattlefarmer on September 1, 2009

charley asked:


I am really worried about my horse, he is petrified of cattle, whenever he see’s them he becomes so scared he runs off, it doesn’t matter where he is. it could be on a road and he’d run into a bus to avoid cattle, understandably i am scared for him. As there are alot of cattle on the farm i keep him, (i can’t keep him anywhere else), it is hard to work around them, there is also a hemmel, (shed full of cows), which he will go through ok, but whenever a cow starts to move quicker than a walk on the side of him he will bolt out the other side of the hemmel so i don’t take him throuhg anymore. As the farm does have access points to the road i am really alarmed by his behaviour and have tried various methods of trying to get him to relax to no avail. I need serious help but i can’t afford to take him to a horse physcologist please anyone who has experience with horses can you help? Charlotte, x
Thank you everyone for contributing, at the minute i can’t turn him out with any cows because they are in for the winter but as soon as they do come out i will try my very best to persuade the farm owner to let me lend a cow and a field! Thanks every1 for your help! Any other suggestions are welcome. x

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

ajmommy002 September 2, 2009 at 1:11 am

I have a Quarter horse gelding that is the same way. He was boarded for a while at a ranch that had cows on it and he still never got over his fear. I can’t hardly get him down the street if he can smell them. I really can’t offer too much advice other then keep trying. I was told it’s good to go in an arena with someone walking a cow and you walk the horse behind it but I never did try that. What I do is just keep circling him when I have trouble until I calm him enough to get past his spooky spot.

*Heather Loves Joe* September 5, 2009 at 10:43 am

my horse did the same thing to me, he ran up a steep embankment and almost into a car once, i recommend working with him in hand near cattle and then gradually build up to riding him near cattle so that you can acclimate him to the cattle without getting seriously injured and consult a professional trainer as well

hicktowngal September 8, 2009 at 9:31 pm

your horse is cow shy. place the horse and one cow out in a field. about three acres for about a week. you horse needs shy room. walk him around. if he bolts tie him up. it’s a slow process. be gentle. perhaps in time he will get used to the cow.

red lady-bird September 10, 2009 at 3:43 pm

He needs desensitising to cattle. This can take a long time and you will need a lot of patience. Basically you build his confidence very gradually and slowly. A good idea is to work with another horse that has no fear at all of cattle. Always keep the other horse between your horse and the cow. It would also be good if you could work with one cow to start with, rather than a whole herd,especially if you could get a tame cow that is halter broken. Start by leaving your horse in his stable or paddock (ignore him) if possible walk past leading the cow and other horse, not too close, but close enough so he can see and smell the cow. If he is calm, gradually bring the cow closer, but if he panics,move further away. build from this type of thing very slowly. Good luck. Edit. I have just read this and realized it sounds a bit silly, cow with a halter etc. I suppose I was thinking more on the line of cattle being shown in hand. I would think it highly unlikely that your farmer has a trained in hand cow. Any way the idea was just really an example of how to desensitise. Still I think it would help if you could use just one or two cows in an ajoining paddock, rather than a whole herd.

Dreamy99 September 11, 2009 at 7:52 am

My horse used to be boarded with some cows so maybe if he stayed somewhere close to them, he might eventually get used to them. when he does become fearful around the cows make sure that you stay calm. pretend that there is nothing to be afraid of and that he’s just silly. don’t pet him while he his in that state of mind and try to speak to him as little as possible. if you are nervous at all, which is likely if he is jumping around, your nervousness will come out in your voice and make him even worse. if you are going to talk to him say walk on firmly instead of its ok, its ok. Don’t let him fixate on the cows, instead try to keep him focused on you by using half halts or small tugs on the lead. what he needs is a calm assertive leader. try to remain in a leadership mode instead of comforting your baby. i know its hard especially when they’re scared but its so important. remember he is your follower and has no business worrying about the cows. it is your job to look out for the herd so let him know that he can trust you to protect him.

Paint Pony September 13, 2009 at 1:22 pm

One of the best ways to get a horse over this fear is to let him eat with the cattle. One of my western pleaure horses would totally flip out over just the sight of one. I turned him a lot with a few head and after he got hungry enough to get over the fear and realized that they were not going to eat him also, he discovered that if he pushed on them, they would get out of the way and he could eat. And he thought that was great fun that he could make something move. He went from totally terrified to a horse that love to move cattle as much as anything. To the point that I had to take him out of the pasture with them, since he was walking all of their weight off, circling the pasture.

Ajierene September 15, 2009 at 11:40 pm

Some of it depends on the horse’s age and how much you know about his history. If he was bullied by cows or otherwise abused by cows or in relation to cows, this could be a problem.

My first horse had a fear of cows, but he was over 20 the first time he saw a calf – they both spooked at each other. It was cute, but a bit unnerving only because we were walking alongside a rode.

My filly spent a winter hanging out with cows and has no fear of them. You can try this – we put her in the same field as the cows. There were other horses in there, which helped. At first she stayed away from them and avoided the roundbale feeder. It did help that she saw other horses eating the hay from the roundbale feeder, right next to the cows. After a few days, she cautiously made her way to the hay and soon she was bravely going up to the hay whenever she wanted to, without caring for the cows at all.

This form of desensitizing works very well, if you can do it. Turn your horse out with the cows for a while. At first he will spook and not want to do anything, but eventually he will get used to them. If there is another horse that is not afraid of the cows that he can turn out with, that will help also.

clyff12 September 17, 2009 at 6:34 am

You just need to expose him to them. He may shy away because he had a bad experience with them when he was younger. Try turning him out in a pasture with a few cows in it. Or walk him by a pasture of cows. he just needs exposure. Also try putting him out to pasture in a pasture next to the cows.

Barrel Racer September 19, 2009 at 8:18 am

my mare was the same way so we took her and put her in with a bunch of cattle and she was in there for 8-9 months ans she has finally gotten over it..

Jacy October 13, 2010 at 5:53 am

Ok, Now i have a question. What do you do if your horse is soo afraid of them that she rears and blows, and freaks right out? already tried everything you guys mentioned she went through the fence and it was electric.!!!! my horse is deathly scared of cows!

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